I’ve been thinking a lot about motherhood lately. Duh. No, really. There’s been a smorgasbord of media commentary on motherhood ever since Hilary Rosen suggested Ann Romney hadn’t worked a day in her life. Soon after, Elisabeth Badinter’s “The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women” stirred the pot, and Time magazine’s latest cover story, “Are You Mom Enough?” about breast-feeding and attachment parenting has only added flame to the fire.
I’ve been as happy as a Shopaholic Mama let loose in Anthropologie listening to cable news pundits debate motherhood and reading articles, opinion pieces, and blog posts examining the subject. I’ve also been feeling claustrophobic from the divisive labels being thrust upon mothers, and, probably not surprisingly, wishing I owned a pair of expensive but flattering “Lululemon Mom” yoga pants. These Mommy Wars aren’t just dangerous (am I mom enough?), but also embarrassingly static and one-dimensional – two words I would never think to use to describe the ever-evolving experience motherhood.
Long before I had children, I remember sitting at a progressive women’s group brunch and speaking confidently and definitively about how I would be a working mother. That doing otherwise wasn’t a possibility. A few months after my first son was born, I eagerly (and, in hindsight, naively) took on the role of executive director at the non-profit organization where I worked only to find myself on the brink of a nervous breakdown six months later from the stress of juggling work, motherhood, marriage, and childcare.
By the time I was pregnant with my second son, I had scaled down to working 15-20 hours per work from home. Soon after, I stopped working to be home full-time. A few years later, fueled by a feeling of isolation and a desire to have a greater sense of purpose, I wrote my first Runaway Mama blog post. Today, on Mother’s Day 2012, I’ve laid the foundation for what I hope is a bright Runaway Mama future.
Over the last five and a half years, I’ve been a Working Mama, a Part-Time Working Mama (or Caught-in-the-Middle Mama), and a Stay-at-Home Mama. I’ve also been a breast-feeding Mama, a formula-feeding Mama, a you’re-not-sleeping-in-my-bed Mama, an okay-sleep-in-my-bed Mama, a cry-it-out Mama, a sling-wearing Mama, an I’m-not-carrying-you-around-anymore Mama, and, of course, a Runaway Mama.
I feed my kids organic milk and boxed enriched macaroni product with processed cheese powder in the same meal, and I buy local, seasonal fruit and orange colored crackers every time I go to the grocery store. I write and work on this blog an average of 20 hours each week, and I don’t get paid a penny for any of it. I live for my children but I don’t always like being with them, and in just the last 24 hours, I’ve been a Proud, Happy, Guilty, and Mad Mama. The only label appropriate for me – and any other three-dimensional human being with three-dimensional human children – is mother. Mother is enough.
On a recent morning walk, I found myself thinking about the late Merce Cunningham. Merce Cunningham, known for his use of collaboration, chance, and technology in creating dance, was one of the greatest and most important choreographers of our time. In my early 20s, I had the privilege of taking dance classes at his New York City dance studio and studying modern dance at Sarah Lawrence College directly under the late Viola Farber, one of Cunningham’s founding company members. The significance of these experiences in my life is immeasurable, and they’re a huge part of the journey that has led me here.
I thought about how the use of chance in set and costume design and choreography and music composition allowed for an infinite amount of possibilities in each of Cunningham’s dances, and I realized that the same could be said about motherhood – that all of our life experiences influence our identity over time allowing for endless possibilities. In 1994, in his own words, Merce Cunningham wrote:
“My work has always been in process. Finishing a dance has left me with the idea, often slim in the beginning for the next one. In that way, I do not think of each dance as an object, rather a short stop on the way.”
Nothing pleases me more than realizing just how deeply the experience of dance and motherhood (and now writing) are entwined. (That, and when my kids sleep past 6:30 a.m.) A wise Mama once told me that mothers have the great privilege of living their lives in chapters, which gives them the gift of new beginnings. Whether we want to or not, we can’t stand in the same space for very long. By chance, determination, triumph, tragedy, or the simple passage of time, we’re propelled forward…or back or left or right or up or down.
My first Mother’s Day as a mother (2007)…
And six years later (2012)…
Motherhood is the lens through which I see the world, and it’s not a coincidence that I’ve chosen today to launch www.therunawaymama.com. On this sixth Mother’s Day I’m marking as a mother, I’m celebrating a shift – subtle to you and enormous to me – in my identity. It’s because of motherhood that I’ve discovered my purpose as a writer, and it’s through writing that I’ve (re)discovered my purpose as a mother.
A few weeks ago, I had to update my personal information at a doctor’s office and instead writing that my occupation was stay-at-home mom or n/a (not applicable…good grief), I wrote writer. Doing that felt three-dimensionally amazing.
Today, I start a new chapter. A new dance. When you think about the mothers in your life today, think about the totality of their journey rather than a one-dimensional label that someone else has used to define them right now. And remember, Mother, or in my case, Mama is enough.
Happy Mama’s Day!